Currently, information on most amphibians in the region comes from opportunistic observations or small, short-term studies. Although important, these data cannot be used to track long-term population trends. Because of increasing concern over documented amphibian declines around the world, monitoring long-term population trends for amphibians in the Rocky Mountain west is critical to helping resource managers identify and address problems.
The Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project is a collaborative effort involving the University of Wyoming, regional state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and community scientists. By collecting amphibian monitoring data in the same scientifically rigorous manner, information from all groups can be used to assess trends in amphibian populations.
Our amphibian monitoring program is based on a framework developed by the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI). This framework, developed by a team of leading scientists, is currently being implemented successfully in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (learn more here). For detailed information about our study design, click here.
The Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project has adapted the ARMI monitoring framework so that surveys typically can be conducted easily by professionals or community scientists in one day.
Surveys are typically conducted with 2 people at the same time, each recording their own data (dual-observer method). However, groups of 3 or more people can choose to work together to collect data (team method) during each visit to a catchment.
Surveyors sign up to visit a specific area (catchment) containing several water bodies (sites) to be surveyed. Sites within any given catchment may include ponds, wet meadows, segments of creeks, springs, etc.).
Surveyors are provided with datasheets and other necessary equipment and follow standardized survey protocols to search for amphibians at each site in their catchment.
Data recorded includes:
The number of each species seen
What life stages (e.g., eggs, tadpoles, adults) of each species are seen
Air and water temperature
Basic site characteristics
Surveyors are also asked to carefully catch several individuals of each species seen and swab them for amphibian chytrid fungus. Instructional videos are available here.
We currently have 18 survey catchments on the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming and 36 on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming.